Policy News and Updates

Net Metering is a Hot Topic in Helena

By Kris Heitkamp

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Net metering is a hot topic during this 2015 legislative session. Net metering allows property owners to connect their private renewable energy installation to the public utility grid. Any excess electricity produced that is not used (at home) is sent out to the grid to be sold to the community. On a cloudy day when your private solar array is not producing enough energy, you can pull from the grid. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. At the end of each month, the net total is calculated and either you have earned energy credit or you owe the utility money for the energy used.

Below are some of the net metering bills that will be introduced during the 2015 Montana legislative session.

HB 188: Allow for Rollover of net metering credits, sponsored by Art Wittich (R-Bozeman). This bill aims to allow the extra energy credits generated by net-metered customers to roll over into the next year where they can use them if needed, instead of loosing that extra credit. Read more here. The hearing is scheduled for 1/19/2015 at 3:00PM, Rm 472.

HB 192: Lift the cap on net-metered systems, sponsored by Art Wittich (R-Bozeman). The current cap on net-metered systems is 50 kilowatts, which is big enough for a single-family home or small business to generate their own renewable energy. But it is too small for a school, hospital, or big business that would want to participate in producing its own on-site energy. The bill would increase the cap to 1 megawatt. Read more here. The hearing is scheduled for 1/19/2015 at 3:00PM, Rm 472.

SB 134: Allow for aggregate net metering, sponsored by Jennifer Fielder (R-Thompson Falls). The current law in Montana is that each renewable energy system is required to have a separate meter. The proposed bill would streamline sources from the same or adjacent properties allowing all the meters, whether sun or wind energy, to run together. Read more here. The hearing is scheduled for 1/20/2015 at 3:00PM, Rm 317.

Other unintroduced net metering bills:

LC 291: Provide for neighborhood net metering, likely sponsor Mike Phillips (D-Bozeman).  Some people want to put money towards renewable energy sources but do not have the ideal space or money for a private installation. This bill would allow individuals and businesses to invest and receive credit in shared energy opportunities outside of their location or property. Read more here.

LC 292: Apply net metering to all public utilities, likely sponsor Mike Phillips (D-Bozeman). This bill would apply the net metering law to all public utilities, including Montana Dakota Utilities.  Currently, the law only applies to one regulated utility, NorthWestern Energy. Read more here.

Links for more information:

Missoulian:
http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/republican-democratic-montana-legislators-team-up-on-solar-power/article_e49bdbde-a5ec-5280-b0a9-3b962330aeab.html

Montana Conservation Voters Briefing Papers: http://mtvoters.org/files/2014%20Legislative%20Briefing%20Papers.compressed.pdf

To contact Energy Committee members, call the Capitol at 406-444-4800.

Small Business Proclamation

By Kris Heitkamp

Mayor John Engen proclaimed November 29, 2014 as Small Business Saturday during last Monday’s city council meeting. He recognized the critical role small businesses play in our community, how they form the backbone of our local economy, generating jobs and improving the quality of life for citizens. Mayor Engen and the City of Missoula encourage everyone to consider shopping at small merchants on Small Business Saturday as a way to boost the local economy and strengthen our small business community.

 

SEC May Expand Or Shrink The Pool Of Investors Who Can Finance Small Businesses

By Kris Heitkamp

The SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) is tackling a definition that hasn’t been evaluated for 32 years. At a recent Small Business Forum held at the SEC headquarters in Washington, DC, discussion of what constitutes an “accredited investor” was popular and demanded much attention through panel discussions and breakout groups.

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Local option sales tax and the value of urban areas

By Kris Heitkamp

Last Wednesday the Committee of the Whole had an impressive turnout including several house and senate representatives from different districts. On the agenda was funding for the next legislative session. The main topic discussed was how to raise funds for basic infrastructure, like streets, sidewalks and sewers, without raising property taxes.

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